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on 16 May 2007
This is not a dry as dust biography; indeed it isn't really a biography at all. It is more a collection of intricate cameos of Walsingham's life, which seemed to consist of work, work and work -- all for Queen and country. It is more about the political machinations and associated espionage plus Walsingham's part in keeping Good Queen Bess afloat: he was one of the few who could speak his mind to Elizabeth and keep his head. Walsingham was cunning, ruthless and dangerous; he orchestrated impressive spy-rings but somehow above it all as Elizabeth's equivalent of Prime Minister. Well written; highly readable; absolutely fascinating and definitely in the "I can't put it down" league. Lots of little and large insights into the workings of the father of modern espionage and Elizabeth's court. If you're interested in spying or the Tudors then this is a must.
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on 24 April 2011
Purports to be a biography of Walsingham, with emphasis on his career as statesman, diplomat, and, like it says, spymaster. Disappointingly, never really gets into the details of Elizabethan espionage: we get many many names and outlines of plots, but not enough specifics especially on how we know these things now. Nicholl's "The Reckoning" is far the better book for that sort of thing--and for that matter, how can Budiansky include "The Reckoning" in his bibliography, and then mention Marlowe just once to say "maybe" he was a spy?!? Anyway, without these sort of details the book is mostly just an overview of the big international incidents of the time--the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the story of Mary Queen of Scots, and the Spanish Armada--with Mr. Secretary as the point of continuity. The author has drawn as much as he can from Walsingham's papers, but Mr. Secretary was such a private reserved man that even working from these sources--correspondence, notes and memoranda, stuff like that--we don't get much about his thoughts, his feelings, his reactions, just what happened around him. Also, chapters are thematic more than chronological, so there's overlapping instead of a straight story.

A pleasant, easy read, but two more points show how very much this is not a scholarly work: no index(!), and the "Other books by the author" list has nothing else Elizabethan, but a series of titles like "The Character of Cats," "The Truth About Dogs," "If a Lion Could Talk," and "The World According to Horses." So, fun and interesting to read, but it is not a work of historical scholarship by any means.
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on 21 April 2010
A strangely American view of Elizabethan England. The author has apparently carried out extensive researches into his subject but brings a refreshingly different approach to the historical material that has been used a million times before in the infinite numbers of books written about Elizabeth and her reign. He manages to find the amusing and fascinating details that others don't mention and throws himself into describing the conditions of life in Elizabethan London with amazing gusto and enthusiasm. He can obviously see it so clearly he is almost there.

Poor Walsingham was the original workaholic and one wonders how he managed to have a family life at all, but being in such a position of tremendous power must have been absolutely absorbing and intoxicating. In spite of his exalted position Walsingham seems to be one of a tiny number of people in history who managed to resist the temptation of using extreme power for corrupt purposes.

Readable, amusing and different. I can thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 6 August 2013
I have a particular fascination for "powers behind the throne", something that describes Walsingham well. This is a good insight into the life of Walsingham, though, for me, it spends too much time doing what other books do - telling me about the man - and not about his techniques. In some areas it seems to go out of its way to avoid giving details.

Overall, a useful addition to my collection, but not exactly what I was hoping for.
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on 7 August 2014
I read another book on Walsingham and anted to read this one as well. What a man !
The first secret service and his contacts in the French and Spanish courts for the time were amazing.
I belive that he had a mole in the Vatican as well.
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on 23 April 2013
Comprehensively researched by an enthusiast. For non scholars this may drag a little but gets to the heart of England's enemies in those days.
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on 7 August 2014
Amazing man and so ahead of his time and of course the first spymaster
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on 1 April 2015
very good
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